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Thanks, Mom

I can remember a cupcake materializing in the midst of a rotten day. A candle being lit despite the darkness. A birthday party planned even though it had been too tough a season to really think about that. My mother, sister, and I made Pilgrim dolls and decorated the house one Thanksgiving, even though our father hadn't been seen or heard from for weeks. 

My mother's great gift was knowing how to celebrate life no matter what the circumstances. In my new novel, Close to Famous, I gave that gift to my 12 year-old protagonist, Foster McFee. When I began writing this story, I had, like a good baker, all the ingredients out on the counter:  Fear; danger; humor; celebration; change; resilience; denial; over-coming; vanilla cupcakes; secrets; loss; learning challenges; chocolate chip muffins; raw courage; brown sugar brownies; moist chocolate cupcakes; chocolate malt cupcakes; milk chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; all out despair; and banana cupcakes with fudge frosting. And I thought, OK, Joan, this time, you've done yourself in. This stuff doesn't go together. But of course it did. That's how I grew up. 

My mom died a year ago.  I have many of her belongings, but the ones I cherish most are her casserole dishes. When I use one, as I did recently to make baked apples, the warmth of her in the kitchen is so real to me. My mother knew that cooking unleashes a special power. She would have loved Foster's great dream to be a famous kid cook on television. 

Close to Famous is the first book I've written that my mother never read. But, the lessons she taught me are baked into the pages. Thanks, Mom. This one's for you.

Close to Famous is available in stores February 3rd.  To learn more, visit

6 responses to “Thanks, Mom

  1. Joan, you have a way of bringing people to life with your words and your heart that makes them unforgettable. No wonder that your character Foster McGee comes so alive that I almost hear her out in the kitchen and find myself anticipating the aroma of her milk chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. I see your Mom too, making Pilgrim dolls with her daughters over Thanksgiving, showing you (and us)that there is always something to celebrate, even (or maybe even especially) in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty. Your stories are a gift that keeps on giving. Please, keep them coming. When they arrive, I can hardly wait to unwrap them.

  2. Yippeeeee!! I’m drooling and can taste, appreciate, and anticipate what fabulous “pictures” you paint with your words! Your family heritage shines on!

  3. Kally — I want to underscore your point that celebration is critical in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty, and if frosting can be part of that celebration, all the better. Joan

  4. O my goodness. I am not a reader at ALL it is the best book EVER i really love it so so much!!!! Huck got me so mad.! it feels like i am in the story.i watch tv only 1 eposiede of a t.v. show this week i am at the part where Mrs. Charleena ( I think that is how you spell it) found out Foster could not read so then she tries to teach her. Then macon is listen in….. Thank you so much to see what reading is really about. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write some more book!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Stumbled upon this blog when I was preparing for my girls’ book club. Your words dance, and you made me smile. In fact, as I type this, my son just asked me, “Hey mom, why are you smiling?”

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